There is a popular saying amongst teachers: Keep Calm and Teach On. As a Kindergarten teacher of five years, I had learned that this saying can pull you through the craziest of moments. Like when your student pours glue into his ear or, when a student suddenly projectile vomits across the classroom splattering almost every kindergartener along the way. At times like these, staying in control was the key to surviving the day.
I had been working throughout my pregnancy and was three weeks away from my due date. It was the final week of school with five more days left until summer. I woke up that morning with a dull inconsistent pain in my lower back. Two on a scale of ten. On the drive to work, the pain was getting worse. I met my colleague in the school parking lot who had a baby the prior year. She looked at me concerned and asked if I was alright. “Sure” I explained, “Just some minor pain in my back…the baby must be dropping!” She smiled calmly and said, “Call me if you need to go home today and rest. I can help out with your class.” “Sure, sure”, I said dismissively. By this point I was walking hunched over when I stopped to say hello to another colleague. She too, looked concerned and asked how I was. She reminded me to call her if I needed anything at all. I hobbled away completely unaware that I was indeed in labor and that everyone knew it but me!
As the bell rang and I opened the door to welcome my students, the pain intensified dramatically. My students piled into the classroom, ready to start the day. A sharp pain was shooting around my abdomen. I remember thinking, Am I in labor? No, couldn’t be. I have three more weeks until my due date! School is not done yet. I have work to do.
My students were busy completing their morning writing assignment so they didn’t see me when I started doubling over. I carefully walked to my chair across the room and sat down. And that is when I felt it!! GUSH! At this moment, I realized that I was indeed in labor! My mind was racing. Was that my water breaking? OH MY! Did the students notice? Thank goodness I was wearing a long skirt! What do I do? The pain intensified. Keep Calm and Teach On. I quickly telephoned my principal, slowly stood up and calmly announced to the class, “Boys and Girls, Mrs. Prest is going to have her baby today. Grab your pencil and journals. You’re going to need to line up.”
Now, you would think that chaos would have erupted, yet it was quite the opposite. I still don’t know how I managed to stand up straight and walk to the door. Each of my 22 students lined up quietly and hugged me as they walked out. Some wished me luck. Others told me they loved me. One student asked, “Mrs. Prest, what about homework?”
At 5:21pm that day, I delivered a healthy and strong baby boy named Matrix. To be clear, I wasn’t Calm or Teaching On during the delivery.
Image Credit: Jessie O'Neill-Prest